When Amanda LaMunyon, 15, of Enid, was in early elementary school, she had trouble concentrating. She couldn't relate to her peers or focus in school. She was known to get up and walk out of class seemingly for no reason.
“It was kind of hard because at first I didn't know that what I was doing was wrong. I didn't understand,” she said.
But when an art teacher put a paintbrush into Amanda's hand, she was finally able to focus and really express herself.
She gave one of her first paintings, “Winter Wonderland,” to her first-grade teacher who was suffering from colon cancer. The teacher placed the painting near her bed so she could enjoy it every day. That's when Amanda knew that she could touch people in a special way.
“After I began painting, people began to see me not as the girl that would get up randomly during class and just walk out and come back 20 minutes later ... (but as a) girl that could paint and she has a talent,” Amanda said.
When she was 8, Amanda was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder that explained her difficulties in social interaction.
“Before I was diagnosed, my life was a lot harder because I didn't know what was wrong with me. Like, I kind of thought I was weird,” she said. “Then when I found out what I had, that kind of helped me come to terms to why I was doing what I was doing.”
Her first two paintings amazed her mother, Sherry LaMunyon.
“I put them up on the mantle in our house and looked at them and thought, ‘Who is this little girl? She's surely different than I thought,'” she said. “After that, I think, art probably was the best thing that happened to Amanda. Because, what it changed was the way people viewed her and, therefore, the way they reacted to her, she also had a positive reaction to them. And it just changed everything about our life.”